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Small Business Web Design
- your perfect option - 2

Hopefully you've now been able to determine the category of web site that you need - now let's take a more detailed look at the 3 options from the previous page to establish your perfect option for getting it!

This is where it all starts to take shape and make sense (doesn't it..?).

Small Business Web Design Options

1. DIY - do it yourself!

You can do it yourself, with no prior knowledge, for all of the small business web design categories mentioned above, with the possible exception of the full 'shopping cart' variety in the fourth ('Sell Products') category. This isn't impossible, but it is a tall order with no prior knowledge. It depends on how much time you have, or want to devote, to this side of your business.

Anyone can build their own web site. It may be something you know absolutely nothing about at the moment, but it's not difficult (...honest).

With modern software programs like 'Microsoft Word', 'Microsoft Publisher' (even better) and many others, you don't even have to know 'HTML' ('Hyper Text Mark-up Language' - the programming language that is used to write web pages).

There is often a facility (usually under the 'Save As' file option) to 'Save as type' - just select 'Web Page', or however it's described in your own software. A lot of web design purists don't like this method as these programs tend to add a lot of program code that you don't need to use if you can write in 'HTML'. But if you don't know 'HTML' and have no desire to learn, it provides a workable short-cut. You've probably already got someone in your set-up that currently types letters etc., so there's literally nothing new to learn if you go down this route for simple, but no less effective, small business web design.

At the other end of the scale for small business web design, is dedicated web page design software e.g 'Microsoft Front Page' and 'Dreamweaver'. If you're just starting out with small business web design, you can often buy an older version of such software very cheaply. You don't need the most up-to-date version to create a good site - normally they just provide additional functionality that, however useful it may be, will mean nothing to you anyway unless you've already used an earlier version.

These kind of programs are often referred to as 'WYSIWYG' ('What You See Is What You Get') web page editors. You've probably already heard this term applied to word processors like 'MS Word'. It means exactly what it says - you lay out the web page and type what you want it to say and that is how your web page will look. The software, by default, saves it as an 'HTML' file (or 'HTM', which is basically the same thing).

There is another kind of software that you can use and it's free. 'Windows 95/98' included software called 'FrontPage Express', which is an additional installation option. If you have access to these versions of 'Windows', and you can't see it on the 'Programs' menu, you can check if it's already installed by searching ('Start'-->'Find'-->'Files or Folders') for the 'FPXPRESS.EXE' file. Double-click on it to launch it when you find it, or install it from your original 'Windows' CD if you don't already have it on your PC.

As the name implies, it's a scaled-down version of 'MS Front Page', but I used it to write the first 12 pages of our first web site (it's now more than 120 pages...) quite successfully. If you currently use 'Netscape', they also have a free web page editor called 'Netscape Composer' that is bundled with their browser. Just bear in mind that more than 90% of visitors will be using 'MS Internet Explorer', so you'll need to check that your pages look OK in this browser as well.

If you're hell-bent on doing it yourself, my recommendation is to use one of the free versions. I prefer 'Front Page Express' as it tends to deal with 'tables' better than the particular version of 'Netscape Composer' that I tried, and the vast majority of 'surfers' use a MS browser. If you want to do something that the free version isn't capable of, consider paying for whichever web page editor you choose, or learn 'HTML'. I found myself becoming quite intrigued by 'HTML' (sad, I know...), so that's the route I personally took.

To be perfectly honest, if I'd known when I started out what I know now, I wouldn't have chosen the DIY route at all. I've since found an excellent way to build web sites that requires absolutely no prior knowledge, and everything is simplified to just typing, pointing and clicking. This service takes care of all the technical stuff to do with web sites and lets you concentrate on your business, rather than small business web design.

Want an example? You're reading a web page that was created in 4 minutes 26 seconds using this new method! This product is called "Site Build It!", and if you don't need a full 'shopping cart' facility for your small business web design, see the third option ('Hybrid') below for more details.

2. Pay a third party small business web design company to do it for you

I've never done this, so I can't offer you any personal recommendations for particular companies who provide this kind of service, but there are hundreds of them around. I would personally only consider going down this route if you have no prior knowledge of web sites and/ or 'HTML' and you need a fully functional 'shopping cart' web site i.e. the most complex small business web design of the four categories I described above.

I can, however, offer you some useful tips if you decide to hire a third party small business web designer:

1. Make sure you see some examples of their designs and check out some basic points like do the pages load quickly, do they look professional and do all the links work correctly?

2. Contact a few of their existing customers and check that they completed the work on schedule, within budget and provided a high level of customer service.

3. Steer well clear of 'flashy' designs - apart from taking too long to load, these kind of gimmicks don't sell products. Only words sell, not images...period!

4. Ensure someone with sales experience who knows your products and customers oversees the project to ensure that your small business web design focuses on your potential customers, not their web design.

5. Don't let them put something like "Optimised for viewing at 1024 x 768 in 'Browser X, version 4.63' and above" on your web site. I don't know about you, but in common with most people, this always annoys me intensely. If they think visitors are going to change their screen resolutions just to view one web site, they've been living in a cave!

The onus is on the web site designer to create something that the most popular configurations of viewing set-up can accommodate, not the other way around.

6. Don't let them include anything that requires your visitors to have this or that 'plug-in' installed in their browser. As with changing their screen resolution, the chances of your visitors downloading a 'plug-in' file just for the privilege of seeing your web site are minimal. They'll just vote with their index finger - 'click', next site please!

I only have limited resources to do this, but if you're very keen to get started, need someone to do it for you, and you need a 'Category 1' web site to establish your internet presence, we'll do it for a small charge for the first people that ask - just email me here if you're interested.

This may seem a bit strange, as it's actually reducing our own potential business revenue, but I genuinely believe that you're better off using the 'Hybrid' option (below) to do it yourself. This gives you total flexibility and the option of developing the scope of your small business web design later on.

3. Hybrid - a mixture of the first two options

This is the small business web design that I recommend for all of the categories of web site above, with the exception of one with full 'shopping cart' facilities for hundreds of products.

The reason I call it 'hybrid' is because, with a product called "Site Build It!", you make a yearly payment which includes a professional web hosting service, your own domain name, unlimited email addresses, automatic submission to search engines, built-in advice for making sure your web pages achieve a high ranking with the search engines, and a whole host of other things too numerous to list here.

But you have total control over the content, as you write the web pages yourself, without needing any technical knowledge!

If I had discovered this service when I first started out, I could have developed our first web site in a tenth of the time, at a tenth of the cost. If you think about it, I guess I could be developing my tenth web site now instead of my second, without having spent a penny more (and probably with a tenth of the frustration!).

Although you write the web pages yourself so you have complete control over the content of your small business web design, don't worry - you don't have to learn any technical stuff - everything is built for you automatically just by 'typing, pointing and clicking'.

In fact, to show how easy it is, Ken Evoy's 14-year-old daughter (Ken Evoy is the founder of 'SiteSell', the company that makes "Site Build It!") has built her own web site in her spare time that is currently ranked #41,533 (by the amount of visitors it receives) out of the 23 million web sites on the internet!

For example, in just 4 minutes and 26 seconds, this page of this web site was 'built', automatically 'uploaded' to the internet and automatically submitted to the important search engines using this facility!

And I particularly like the SBI! no-risk guarantee - if at any time I decide I don't like it (not that that's going to happen!), there is a no-questions-asked money-back refund and they let me keep my own domain name, just for trying it. That's my kind of guarantee!

Click here to check "Site Build It!" out for yourself. For all categories of small business web design, other than the full 'shopping cart' variety for hundreds of products, I highly recommend it!

P.S. Please help me to help you - if you'd like to see anything different or would like to comment about the content of this small business web design section of the web site, please email me here.

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